Virendra N. Sharma
A number of scholars, including this one, have tried to pin down the date of Mahabharata war on the astronomical references scattered in the epic, and quite a few of them computed dates generally around 3000 BCE. However, a number of questions have to be addressed before any of these dates are given a serious consideration.
Consider the following:
The Language Question
The language of the epic is the same as that of the Bhagwad Gita. According to Radhakrishnan, Gita is a document of around fifth century BCE, which suggests that the epic may also be of the same general period.
- Further, the oldest Veda, the Rigveda, is widely believed to be a document of about 1500 BCE. Its language is archaic and markedly different from that of the epic. How is it possible that the language of the epic that was supposed to have been written some 1500 years before Rigweda is the same as that of a period after 1000 years after the Rigeda?
The script used by the author or authors of the epic appears to be based on the Brahmi. Can anyone say that the Brahmi script was in vogue in the days of the epic around 3000 BCE. Is Brahmi script some 5000 years old? If Brahmi or its some other form was in use during Mahabharata, 5000 years ago, what happened to it during the Harappa Mohanjodaro period which falls some 1000 or 2000 years after the epic. So far as I am aware, no one has shown any similarity between Brahmi script and the symbols on the Harappa-Mohanjo Daro seals.
There had been at least three editions of the epic. The earliest one is said to be of some 8000 verses and known simply as Bharata. Those who have tried the “astronomical approach” tacitly assume that the planetary references of the epic belong to the very first edition, the Bharata. To this date, no one has been successful in finding the earliest version, the Bharata.
The events described in the epic supposedly happened in North India, the area around Delhi, and Merath in the states of UP and Haryana. The archaeologists have not been able to find any traces of a civilization corresponding to Mahabharata period or of 3000 BCE. Their diggings only indicate signs of a developed civilization after 800 BCE only. The diggings for the period earlier than 800 BCE reveal only a relatively undeveloped civilization.
In my opinion therefore, the Mahabharata may not have been written in 3000 BCE. but around 500 BCE or thereafter. The epic’s aim is to spread a moral message, and the Bhagwat Gita is its crown jewel. Any attempts to show that the events described in the epic did actually take place some 5000 years ago, or around 3000 BCE, is futile. And the attempts by scholars to pin down a date based on astronomical reports, with modern computers, are no more than archaeo-astronomical exercises.